Jessica Prokop

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March 21, 2014
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Two perish in Myrtle Creek fire

An early-morning fire today claimed the lives of a 95-year-old man and his 14-year-old great-grandson.

The fire was reported around 4:30 a.m. by a neighbor who had been alerted to the blaze by the boy’s parents, who escaped from the doublewide trailer.

By the time firefighters arrived at 194 Old County Lane about 7 miles east of Myrtle Creek, the structure was engulfed in flames, Myrtle Creek Assistant Fire Chief Mike Leming said.

Pitchlynn T. Harris, a World War II veteran who served in the Navy, and Spencer L. Brubaker, a Coffenberry Middle School student, were found dead in the trailer.

Larry D. Brubaker, 56, and Naomi J. Brubaker, 41, were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg to be treated for smoke inhalation.

They were both in good condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Oregon State Fire Marshal spokesman Rich Hoover said an investigator was on the scene by about 9 a.m. and working to determine the cause of the fire.

The fire does not appear to have been suspicious, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The fire occurred in a rural neighborhood made up of 5-acre lots. A next door neighbor, Dixie Fowler, said she called 911 after Naomi Brubaker ran to her house.

Fowler said Naomi Brubaker said that she and her husband were awakened, but smoke was too thick to reach the living room. They escaped by breaking a window and climbing out from the bedroom.

Spencer Brubaker, meanwhile, may have gone into the living room to try to save a pet cat, Fowler said.

“It’s pretty rough. He was a good kid,” she said.

A dog and two puppies survived the fire, while two other puppies perished, Fowler said.

Harris had lived on the property since 1980 and had been widowed for many years, said another neighbor, Twila Dunsmore.

“He was great. I really loved him,” she said. “He was just a good, quiet neighbor.”

Dunsmore described Spencer Brubaker “as very outgoing.”

“Spencer would come over and ask if there was anything he could do, as far as working in the yard,” she said. “He came over and fixed my CB.”

Harris had been in failing health, and the Brubakers moved in with him about a year ago, said Harris’ niece, Pam Osborne of Tacoma. Larry Brubaker was Harris’ stepgrandson.

Osborne said she couldn’t persuade her uncle to leave his property to live in a VA facility in Washington state.

“He was very mad at me, in a joking way,” she said. “He just loved living out on that property. He didn’t want to leave it.”

• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 or City Editor Don Jenkins can be reached at 541-957-4201 or

This version of the story appeared earlier on

MYRTLE CREEK — An early-morning mobile home fire today claimed the lives of two Myrtle Creek residents about 7 miles east of the city, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Firefighters received a report of a structure fire around 4:30 a.m. in the 100 block of Old County Lane. When they arrived, a mobile home was engulfed in flames, deputies said.

Spencer Brubaker, 14, and his great-grandfather, Pitchlynn Harris, 95, perished in the blaze.

Homeowners Larry Brubaker, 56, and Naomi Brubaker, 41, made it out of the home and were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg to be treated for smoke inhalation.

They were both in good condition this morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Investigators remained on the scene, but the fire does not appear suspicious or criminal, deputies said.

Next of kin has been notified.

The sheriff’s office, Myrtle Creek Police, Myrtle Creek Fire Department, Canyonville Fire Department, Tri City Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal’s office responded to the scene.

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The News-Review Updated Mar 21, 2014 01:03PM Published Mar 21, 2014 12:42PM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.